Reading Novels: A Creative Cure for Pregnancy Nausea

Summer Reading….one of the lovely things about taking the summer off school is doing a lot of it!

Sometimes with an ongoing difficulty, distraction is the best medicine…in the case of ongoing nausea in pregnancy, there are of course many things to be done. Eating small snacks and meals often, having enough protein, drinking ginger or peppermint tea, etc. But sometimes, despite best efforts, pregnancy can feel like a giant stomach flu whose only cure is constant eating…at the very time many foods seems repulsive.

Sometimes the best cure for feeling queasy is simply not thinking about it so much, but that is difficult to do by sheer will power alone. It helps instead, to be distracted and think of something else. This is where reading novels comes in. Or rereading them, as the case may be…almost all the books pictured above were rereads, because I love returning to familiar worlds whose characters I already “get along with” and whose adventures, despite all misadventures along the way, are comfortingly going to turn out well.

So why else do I think reading is great during pregnancy? Here’s a little list:

1. Reading is a great excuse to sit down, or lie down, and to take a quiet moment for yourself. Instead of telling your husband or kids, “I’m going to go stare at the ceiling and moan while my stomach churns,” you can say, “I’m going to go read my book for a little while while you guys play or watch a show.”

2. Sitting quietly and reading a book helps you take time to digest properly when your stomach is sensitive…instead of running around right after a meal cleaning up, which is a great way to lose your lunch.

3. There is so much focus on feeding your body well when pregnant, in order to help your baby be healthy, but what about feeding your soul? Reading novels that inspire you, make you laugh or cry, help you to love and to hope, is a way to feed your soul. Since your emotions and mental state affect your little one, you can see this reading as a way to build up your baby’s spirit.

4. What kind of books do I like? Because pregnancy is already a state of heightened emotion, I don’t recommend reading crazy thrillers or compelling tragedies, especially not the latter. I read the prequel to the Hunger Games (A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) this spring, before we got pregnant, and I’m glad. It was an extremely scary portrait of a narcissist and I’m glad the baby couldn’t feel me trembling as I read deep into the night. Definitely a must read for any Suzanne Collins fan who isn’t in a super sensitive state, though!

I tried reading an early Canadian wilderness adventure novel, but had to put it down when each chapter’s tragedy was worse than the last.

Another kind of book on my “no thanks list” during pregnancy is parenting books. While this may seem counterintuitive, I find that many books on parenting can be so strongly worded about the “right way” to do just about everything, that they can lead to a huge introspective mom-guilt session…the last thing you need when already generously sharing your very being to help create new life.

I do love rereading classics by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I also enjoyed rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy…while darker than the others, the urgency and adventure certainly distracted me from my own little woes. If Frodo and Sam could half-starve while traveling through the wastelands of Mordor on a mission to save the world from evil, I could surely handle laying in bed eating yogurt and reading a book in order to help bring a new little life into the world.

Our little Timbit is now about 12 weeks! Already cute little fingers and toes!

The Girl on Fire Finally Gets Burned

The coals of the firey Hunger Games trilogy are still smouldering on my iPad, several weeks after finishing it. Reading it was an intense experience, and one that made me think a lot. One of the most fascinating aspects was witnessing the slow, sad, mental breakdown of the heroin of the story, Katniss Everdeen. A passionate, intense teenager in a violent, unjust world, she struggles to fight against the repression of her state, and becomes increasingly embroiled in the plans of the rebels to take over from the sadistic President Snow.

For a long time Katniss is increasingly consumed by anger. It takes getting literally burned for her to realize it. That the fire of hatred burns not only the one hated, but the one who hates.

That being willing to do anything to destroy your enemy in fact destroys yourself, because it transforms you into them. That the greatest danger is perhaps not death after all, but losing yourself–what is essential to being you, your best part. It’s like Peeta said before the Hunger Games in book 1, that he wanted to die himself, instead of being corrupted by the Games. He didn’t want to be turned into a killer, a monster, someone willing to do whatever it took to achieve their goal, like the career tributes. At first Katniss can’t understand this way of thinking. All she can focus on is survival, for the sake of her little sister, and unwell mother, for whom she feels responsible.

Later she realizes to her horror, that the deeper into war you get, the more the line between ally and enemy blurs, the more the distinction between right and wrong fades, the more the shining idea of peace gets stained by so many splatters of blood.

In the end, so often betrayed and haunted by so many dead, Katniss trusts no one, and the only peace she can imagine is to join them in the grave, but this idea too gives her nightmares. I’m no expert, but I’m sure she has a bad case of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder).

Violence consumes her and spits her out broken; she is used as a symbol of rebellion, the Mockingjay, thinking that she is furthering the cause of freedom, when in fact she is helping the advancement if a new dictator, just as willing to kill as the last. When her usefulness expires, and her influence becomes a threat, she becomes expendable, and measures are taken.

The Hunger Games Trilogy beings and ends tragically: with the death of children. The abuse of precious and innocent human life as political bait, as hostages, as gory entertainment, as propaganda, as sacrifice for power, as a means to an end. The end is ugly.

But the books do not end in despair, but return to that small, precious hope of a quiet family life, faithful love, and children, made wiser by our experiences, with a future better than our past.

It reminds me of the return to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings, after all the war and trauma of the journey to destroy the one ring, the ring of power, that nearly consumed Frodo. This ring likely would have killed or totally destroyed him without the faithful friendship of Samwise Gamgee, the kind, generous and brave friend who never abandoned him. After it is all done, and they have succeeded, the most beautiful thing is to see Sam return home to Rosie, to love, a hearth and home, to have a family. This is what makes all the sacrifice and heroism worth it.

Sam and Peeta both show us that what really matters, in worlds that can be so twisted and complex, is to remain true to our essential core, which is unswerving fidelity to those we love, and the realization that love is stronger than death, and is the force which has far more power to save our world than violence.

So what does this mean for us?

That when we are angry, we should seek peace.
That when we are disgusted by someone’s actions, we should still treat them with respect because they are a human being, and we, too, are capable of making many mistakes.
That when we are despised or mocked, we should not spit back nasty words, because returning evil for evil is a sure way to let our enemies win, by turning us into the kind of people whose actions were hurting us in the first place.
That we should never put people in simplistic boxes of good or evil, especially if labelling them the latter dehumanizes them. When we stop treating other people like human beings, we become monsters.

There is an expression worth pondering, that we must drown evil in an abundance of good. Often the best way to make the world a brighter place, instead of lashing out against the darkness, is to let the light of goodness shine by doing many simple, kind, and generous things, and trusting that all these little actions do add up to something important. If we teach this to our children, they can bear little torches of hope out into the world, and touch many lives for the better.

I don’t mean that we shouldn’t fight against injustice, and rally around the oppressed, but when we are in any kind of struggle, let’s remember what the rebels in the Hunger Games forgot: that not only the cause matters, but the way of fighting it, because fighting for a just cause by evil means poisons the whole thing.

And if the idea of violence against children rightly horrifies us, let’s remember that all people, of every background, were once children, too.